A millionaire with a Ferrari in the garage but with no gas

My chess teacher described my gameplay today as ‘a millionaire with a Ferrari in the garage but with no gas’. It was my second lesson, and my tutor reviewed some of my recent 5-minute games on Chess.com. His point was that I had built up lots of raw ‘power’ but did not have a framework to use that power, resulting in inconsistent performance. 

This observation was fair; I recently gained and lost 150 rating points in the space of a few days. 150 points are equivalent to what most amateur players would hope to gain in a year with hard study and hours of play each day. This gain and loss is similar to a gambler winning big with a run of luck, then losing it all and staying at the casino all weekend without sleep, trying to win it back but making it worse.

There are two main ways to pick your next move in chess, intuition and calculation. Intuition is when you look at the board, and the move just comes to you. This skill is built over time as you train your brain to recognise positions, moves, and lines that you have experienced before in games, book study, and puzzles and can call on to make your next move. Calculation in chess is a series of steps where you assess all avalible ‘candidate’ moves on the board to decide your best course of action. 

Calculation is considered the most critical skill for success in chess and is developed in longer-time games. Intuition is required for shorter time frames where you have less time to assess all the possible moves on the board. I almost exclusively play short time frames currently, so I rely on intuition; however, my recent jump and drop in rating indicated I need to improve my calculation through deliberate practice.

A good coach is helpful for three reasons; the first is they have an objective, expert eye on your current ability. Second, they help you to identify where you want to go and realistic timeframes to get there. Thirdly, they can help you create a personalised plan for what you need to do to get there, monitor how well you stick to it, and update the program based on this feedback.   

You can get most of the way there on your own by focusing on three questions:

  • Do you know where you are in life?
  • Where do you want to get to?
  • What are you doing to get there?

Now back to finding some gas for my Ferrari.

How to become a Learning Designer, assess your skills and get feedback on what you need to improve

I have been contacted recently by many people interested in becoming Learning Designers but needing to know if they have the right skills or where to go to learn more about the role. 

I am launching a scorecard to help people identify the best ways to get their first role by assessing what skills they need, even if they are nervous that they are not yet ready.

It is simple; you answer 15 yes or no questions and automatically receive customised recommendations. 

I have just set it up, so I would love some feedback. 

There is the link: https://learningdesigner.scoreapp.com/

Building Back Better: the UK Government replaces it’s industrial strategy

On the 3rd March, the UK Government published a policy paper titled Build Back Better: our plan for growth alongside the new budget. This plan replaces the previous 2017 Industrial Strategy with a focus on post-pandemic recovery. The Government aims to use the investment to support a move away from an economy geographically weighted towards London and the South East of England and encourage growth across the UK.

These remarkable vaccines are giving us a realistic way forwards to restart our businesses and our lives. As we do so, we must grasp the historic opportunity before us: to learn the lessons of this awful pandemic and build back better, levelling up across our United Kingdom and fixing the problems that have held back too many people for too long.

Boris Johnson – Prime Minister

The plan covers six core areas for growth:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. SKills
  3. Innovation
  4. Levelling up the whole of the UK
  5. Support the transition to Net Zero
  6. Support our vision for Global Britain

The skills plan includes the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to narrow the skills gap in technical and adult basic skills, including digital fluency, and a continued rollout of apprenticeships. The OECD has suggested that the UK could improve productivity by 5% by reducing its skills mismatch to levels similar to other high performing economies.

There has been a recognition of the technical skills shortages, with only 4% of young people choosing a technical qualification after leaving school compared to 33% selecting to study a degree. Basic skills are a problem for many adults, with over a quarter of workers having low literacy or numeracy skills. The Government aims to invest heavily in the Further Education sector and make technical education a genuine alternative to University.

The best way to improve people’s life chances is to give them the skills to succeed. The UK has a strong foundation of advanced skills, but lags behind international comparators on technical and basic adult skills. The Government is transforming Further Education, encouraging lifelong learning through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, and building an apprenticeships revolution.

Rishi Sunak – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Apprenticeships play a large part in the skills plan. There is a commitment to expand traineeships and improve the progression rate to apprenticeships, incentives for new apprenticeship hires, steps to improve the quality of provision, and improvements to employers’ apprenticeship system.

Technical education is being expanded by increasing the number of T-levels as an alternative to A-levels and higher technical qualifications as an alternative to university degrees. Institutes of Technology will be rolled out in every region of the country to expand the twelve existing pilot institutions. 

For those already in work, funding is provided to study level 3 qualifications for those that do not yet have one. Skills Bootcamps have been launched to provide flexible and bite-sized introductions to employer-led skills. The Lifelong Loan entitlement is mentioned, but it will not be available until 2025. The loan promises students the ability to study qualifications by module and flexibly received funding to mirror their study choices.  

The policy paper has nothing new around the skills strategy, but it represents recommitments alongside the new budget. The Government’s focus is clearly on matching education and training provision to the economy’s skills needs. Many people will be disappointed that the Industrial Strategy will not be updated, and the university sector is still waiting for details on the Lifelong loan details. It is now the Government’s chance to deliver on the commitments.

The UK Government support for jobs

The coronavirus is causing UK Unemployment to rise. According to the Office for National Statistics, over 800,000 employees left the payroll in the last twelve months, with a record number of redundancies and reduced vacancies. With the national lockdown continuing the picture is likely to get worse before it gets better. 

Even before the pandemic, the Department of Education has increased its focus on the 50% of people that did not go to university. In September 2020, the Prime Minister announced a significant expansion of education and training for workers to boost productivity, narrow the skills gap, and deliver some details on the promised support for ‘the other 50%. The Prime Minister’s announcement included a Lifetime Skills Guarantee and entitlement to flexible loans for micro-credentials style study.

Degree Apprenticeships have been the flagship scheme to ‘unleash talent’ for those who do not have high qualifications, but many additional services are available as part of the Governments approach. I have listed some of the currently available services to those who need a job or improve job security by upskilling. 

For people looking for work, the UK Government provides:

For people wanting to learn, the UK Government provides:

  •  The Traineeship website to get help and at least 70 hours of work experience to prepare for an apprenticeship or job
  • The Skills Toolkit with access to 70+ online short courses in digital, numeracy, and employability skills provided by educational experts and employers including Microsoft
  • The National Skills Fund is the first part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and is focused on adult level three qualifications
  • Skills Bootcamps lasting 12-16 weeks that build sector-specific skills to get people to interview ready
  • The local Jobcentre Plus pre-employment training, work experience placements, and guaranteed job interview.

For people that have lost their job:

  • The Job Entry Targeted support scheme provides six months of personalised support after the first three months of searching for a job
  • Work coaches match peoples skills to available jobs to help get them back into work
  • The Restart scheme from Summer 2021 to provide 12 months of personalised support for those out of work for over 12 months  

For people needing financial help due to coronavirus:

There is much more to be done, but there is now a direction of travel. The Apprenticeship levy and growth in work learning has been positive, but details of the future schemes are not yet clear. However, there is help for people who need it, and there are great jobs for people with the right skills and opportunities to develop these skills for those who want them.

My promise

If you are interested in working in Learning Design or Educational Technology and want to talk to someone for advice, please contact me on Twitter. There is a massive need for people to support the design and development of high-quality online courses, and I would love to give you an hour of my time on a call and help you on the journey from whatever starting point.

What is the skills gap?

The skills gap refers to the gap between the skills employers need and the skills individuals have. This gap is growing due to the increasing amount of technology used in the workplace requiring new skills that employees need to learn. The gap is growing as employees, both future and present, are either not learning the skills quickly enough or are learning the wrong skills altogether.

There are four main stakeholders, the businesses that employ people, individuals in or entering the workforce, education providers that prepare people for the work, and governments that can provide an efficient environment for the other three stakeholders to operate effectively.

Work keeps at bay three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.


As an educator, my main focus is on the individuals in or preparing for the workforce. Work is extremely important, most of us find meaning in the work we do, the majority of the socialising and connections to other people is through our jobs, and they allow us to develop mastery. Gaining the right skills to get a good job also provides financial rewards that offer us freedom and independence.

All four stakeholders aim to narrow this gap and provide bridges between people and jobs. The UK Government has recognised that the increase in higher education participation rates to over 50% of the population has not narrowed this gap. They have taken bold steps to address this issue with the apprenticeship levy, postgraduate loans, and the recent technical qualifications. Many university leaders following the Augar report are pushing for lifelong learning credits or similar to support the reskilling in additional to the other changes.

Further increasing participation in higher education is not enough as there needs to be an effort to match the skills required with the ones being taught. There are significant moves from the government towards addressing this issue so it now the turn of educators to take the raw materials we are given and work with employers and students to build the bridges to connect the two.